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The Belbin Approach

 

There are many myths about teams. Most myths grew out of some seeds of reality, but are not the whole truth: People who are similar get on well, and work together well (birds of a feather...) Differences build strength (opposites attract...) Teams must have strong leaders Many bright people together are really creative.

Most of us grew up with the idea that we must be able to do anything that may be required of us. Many job ads specify a collection of qualities that few normal people can combine. Any attempt to list the qualities of a good manager or leader demonstrates why he or she can't exist - many of them are mutually exclusive. He or she must be highly intelligent, but not too clever; forceful, and sensitive to people's feelings; dynamic and patient; a fluent communicator and a good listener; and so on.

In reality the needed qualities, and lack of them, are distributed among people. That is why teamwork is so important in modern participative management, as we try to tap the contributions and abilities of all members. Colleagues can complement one another and "fill each other's gaps". As Dr Meredith Belbin said "Nobody's perfect - but the team can be". The Belbin approach is being used successfully world-wide to facilitate the effectiveness of both individuals and teams. Organisations can benefit in various ways from using the Belbin approach, and the reports produced from the Belbin Interplace system. Applications of team-role analysis include:   Team-building and team development, based on better mutual understanding   Better allocation of roles and tasks in work groups or in project or ad hoc teams   Improved interpersonal communication, and acceptance and even valuing of differences   Individual feed-back, counselling and coaching for personal and career development   Complementing performance appraisals and other HR tools   Matching person-to-job in recruitment, selection and placement, or for promotions   Succession planning   Balancing skills and attributes in work-teams.

Through over 30 years of research and practical application in management teams world-wide, British management expert Dr Meredith Belbin has shown that the most effective management teams usually have a mix of individuals with a variety of attributes, skills, preferences and approaches. He has identified nine key team-roles. The Belbin profiles have been cross-validated with several of the most widely used psychological tests, and correlate well with various measures of personality and ability.

As all nine roles are needed in a management team (and in most work-teams) no team-roles are "better" or more valuable than others. The analysis can indicate which team members are likely to make the best contribution in the various roles, and at various stages of projects. Since each person can play more than one role, two or three roles may be allocated to individuals in small teams.